For Kate, the world of cosmetics was her whole life. She had been working in her aunt’s perfumery in New York since she was a child, and after college, she became a lab researcher.

Yes, having been in contact with the most varied perfumes that, for years, had infested her like a hurricane formed by the most delicious essences had stimulated Kate’s creativity, and the idea of creating her own perfume began to take shape in her mind.

It was one autumn afternoon that she asked me to meet her in Central Park. We had been friends for a long time, the kind of friends who compete to give each other advice; but this time, Kate had a different tone.

Strange, I thought…since I’d known her, I’d never heard her be doubtful.

“What do you think?” she asked, looking at me .

“As an idea, it’s not bad at all. I think you should try it,” I answered.

Kate was a pretty smart girl with great intuition. She understood that in order to carry out her project, she would have to work for one of the largest cosmetic companies, to have access to the best in that industry.

“You should be lucky enough to work for a large cosmetics company. Then you could make your own perfume,” I told her.

“No problem, I sent out a lot of CVs, and many are interested in hiring, but… ” she said.

“But…?” I asked with curiosity.

“But I’m thinking of accepting the proposal of Brockenwood Cosmetics!” she said with satisfaction.

Brockenwood Cosmetics…I’d be a liar if I said that hearing that name left me indifferent.

It was one of the most famous cosmetics industries, known for its products that were advertised all over the world, said to be among the best on the market.

The only note out of tune in my opinion was the owner: Valerie Brockenwood…

She was a seemingly ageless woman: tall, blonde, with a modelling physique; yes, she looked like an eternal Barbie!

With her being eternally young, she was an excellent advertisement for her products, which, in fact, sold like hot cakes

No, I had nothing to say about Valerie Brockenwood’s appearance, but I had more than a few doubts about her way of doing things.

In the past, Miss Brockenwood had filed a lawsuit against the newspaper I worked for because we had made known the various complaints made against her by some employees, who accused her of appropriating their ideas and discoveries in the cosmetics industry.

Unfortunately, since the researchers carried out their projects in the laboratories of Brockenwood Cosmetics, they had no right to the results. As a consequence, Miss Brockenwood came out head-on from all charges, and the researchers were fired.

“Be prepared to work for a woman who’s as selfish as she is dangerous. As they say in the army, keep a low profile,” I said, looking at Kate

“Don’t worry, I know that she isn’t very well seen by her collaborators, and as a result, I will move cautiously in that environment; I will be nothing more than a newly hired researcher,” she told me.

The next day, Kate entered the wolf’s lair, and I was already imagining a scene which was not so far from reality.

Kate was received by many smiles, but the most dazzling was that of Miss Brockenwood.

She was a woman apparently in her fifties (in my opinion, she had said goodbye from a long time at the age she declared!) with large blonde, voluminous hair and a well-kept body wrapped in a fuchsia-colored tallieur. She moved on her heels with ease, assuming attitudes that reminded me of the actresses of the 40’s.

That evening around six, Kate asked me to meet her at the usual Starbucks Coffee.

“Well…let’s hear the latest news,” I said.

“She’s a charming woman, but with that hypocrisy painted on the face and her horrible, shrill, and singsongy voice, I think I’ll have to be very careful with her,” Kate told me .

“Well, Miss Brockenwood isn’t one who likes to be overshadowed by an employee, even if good and deserving. So, if you want advice, don’t pull out all your talent, just the bare minimum,” I said.

“I’m afraid I can’t control it…they have cutting-edge laboratories, with all the means and resources imaginable. With my knowledge on the subject, in there I could finally create a serum capable of slowing down cellular aging, and from what I have seen, it would not even be expensive. On the contrary, it would be available on a large scale. What do you think?” Kate said, full of enthusiasm.

“Oh, that would be great for me, I’d buy it right away, and like me, many others, but how do you deal with Miss Brockenwood? I don’t think she’ll be pleased to know that in her laboratories, a newly hired researcher found a way to produce a new type of anti-ageing serum,” I told her.

“She should be happy…” Kate replied, amazed.

“Maybe another person would, but not Valerie Brockenwood. With your discovery, you would obscure her fame; she would no longer be the beauty icon she is now!” I told Kate.

“Or even worse: a Brockenwood Cosmetics product would go on the market at a very low price compared to other current products,” Kate said.

“I don’t think losing money is the greatest fear of Miss Brockenwood. First, she could always withdraw the product with an excuse; second, she’s made so much money that it would not be enough for her a lifetime to spend it. Instead, try to think if her famous beauty was no longer her own.” I said.

“Yes…an innovative anti-aging product, sold at an affordable price, would make the dear Valerie fall off the pedestal, putting her beauty on the same level of other women. I recognize that for a person like her, this would be more than enough reason to go on a rampage, maybe firing me,” Kate said.

“Indeed…Kate, listen to me; stop your enthusiasm at work, and do your research in secret. I have to be away for a while, but you can always email me. Watch out in there, huh? See you in three months,” I told her.

In the following days, Kate was working, always trying to give that extra something to her creations, thus attracting the dislike of her colleagues.

Only the manual laborers found her nice, and during a coffee break, Kate learned from the old Al, a black worker, about a lost laboratory hidden somewhere in the basement.

“Really?! I’d love to take a look at that,” Kate said enthusiastically.

“No, Miss Kate. That…that place has been walled up long ago by the old owner of the building, after the death of his daughter. Please do as if I had not told you anything,” answered Al, leaving in a hurry.

A hidden research lab? Kate’s curiosity reached its peak. She felt that there was something true about the story, and she wanted to know more about it. Then, the elusive way of old Al confirmed Kate’s feelings.

The next morning, I found an email where she told me about her conversation with old Al. In the end, she asked me if I could find out more about the past of Brockenwood Cosmetics’ current headquarters.

I don’t deny that the idea of a forgotten laboratory hidden in the meanders of an underground complex had also stimulated my curiosity, so I immediately started to do research by consulting the online archive of my newspaper, and soon I was able to send Kate the following e-mail:

The building was once the headquarters of Morris Cosmetics, a research firm for cosmetics, but in the 70’s, the owner Howard Morris, suddenly sold it and so stopped the business. The reason for this gesture remains actually unknown; as for Mr. Morris, he disappeared completely.

The known version was that he changed city and country, but the fact is that there was no more news about him.

The building remained empty and unsold for many years until Miss Davenport’s family took it over, making it the home of one of the world’s largest cosmetics companies.

But why should someone sell a profitable business and leave suddenly?

It doesn’t make sense…

Kate answered me shortly after with an e-mail, where she thanked me saying: “Thank you, Edward; the material you found is very interesting; it seems that the building in matter is always intended by fate to be a seat of the cosmetics industry. And then, you’re right about the old owner, Mr. Morris. Why did he suddenly sell everything and leave? It seems that he wanted to disappear without leaving a trace. Well, at least now I can reopen the topic with old Al about the secret laboratory. Don’t worry, I’ll be discreet and I’ll keep you informed.”

That Kate would keep me informed of events, that was for sure, but as for being discreet…

In fact, the next day during her lunch break, Kate, as usual, would have her coffee sitting next to old Al, and she told him everything in less than six minutes. Unbelievable…it could be considered a record!

Old Al didn’t say a word; he slowly looked up at Kate from behind the smoke of his coffee and then slowly said: “It’s bad, Miss Kate, when you dig into certain events of the past. This is a story that must remain buried in the base of this building. Mr. Morris sealed that door forever! ”

“But why? What was so terrible about that laboratory? Why did he sell everything and then suddenly disappear?What was the reason why Mr Morris did this?” Kate asked while Al was trying to look away from her.

Trying to change Kate’s mind would have been useless. Al decided to reveal what he knew…

In the 1960’s, his mother had worked in that building and met Mr. Morris and his beautiful daughter Amanda.

Mr. Morris was a cultured and generous man, so selfless that he wanted to create an anti-aging product available to everyone.

“He thought as I do now, but did he succeed?” Kate said.

Al did not answer; he looked towards the end of the corridor and then, turning towards Kate, said: “I…I don’t remember any more, Miss Kate; I’m old and my memories are confused. Goodbye, Miss Kate.”

“Goodbye Al…” Kate said with an air of surprise.

The next day, Kate was back at work, but she couldn’t take away from her mind the story told by Al.

Suddenly, Miss Brockenwood came in and said with haughtiness: “How are my dear collaborators doing today? I hope that the work will proceed well; remember that I do not want mediocre things.”

None of the products she examined met her approval, but when she tried Kate’s creation, she was enthusiastic!

“Well, my dear, this will be the perfume that will represent us!” Miss Brockenwood said smiling.

Kate was radiant and full of pride, but her happiness would soon turn into bitterness.

In fact, two days later, she knew that her perfume would be presented as a creation of Miss Brockenwood’s talent, who was already planning a photoshoot where she would be portrayed smiling with the new perfume in her hands.

“What is wrong with you, my dear? You look upset.” said Miss Brockenwood.

“That perfume is my creation, and now you take all the credit,” Kate replied.

“What do you expect from me, my dear? Do you want me to say you did it? Only one name counts here…mine!” Miss Brockenwood said, freezing Kate with her eyes.

It was too much for Kate! She ran through the door and came out of the lab with the anger that was growing more and more.

In her rush, Kate met Al, who, having witnessed the whole scene, stopped her and said in a low voice: “Miss Kate, tonight you should stay here after hours; there’s something you need to see. I really think you’re the right person.”

“Oh…okay,” Kate said.

As agreed, Kate stayed to work, and after ten o’clock, Al led her to an unknown part of the basement.

Intimidated but curious, she walked through that dark corridor with Al, until they reached an old iron door, and while they were continuing to enter that sinister-looking environment, Kate seemed to have gone back in time, but that didn’t scare her.

“It’s here… “Al said, pointing to a part of the wall. A few picks were enough to open a passage and enter.

A strange and unknown room, made even more surreal by the light of Al’s torch, presented itself to Kate’s eyes.

She saw a table with unknown products, dusty books covered with cobwebs, lined up on a shelf, but there was another thing that froze her blood.

“Here it is…” Al said, illuminating a sort of metal sarcophagus that seemed to have a small round window at face level.

Kate curious, approached that sort of porthole, but she immediately withdrew, emitting a suffocated cry.

“She seems to be sleeping, doesn’t she?” said Al, looking at Kate.

“Unbelievable, absurd…but who is she?” Kate said, touching the glass of the porthole.

“Amanda Morris…the beautiful and unlucky daughter of Mr. Morris. She died prematurely trying a serum created by her father. She injected herself with a full dose, ignoring what her father had told her about the new product,” said Al.

“So she died testing a serum? But she didn’t know that…” Kate said.

“That the whole dose could be lethal? Surely, but unfortunately, she didn’t give importance to her father’s warnings. That’s why Mr. Morris, shocked by the pain and blaming himself, walled up the laboratory and then disappeared,” Al said with sadness.

“I see…he wanted it to remain his daughter’s inviolate grave.” Kate said as she looked at Amanda Morris’s face, and at that moment, she had the feeling of reliving moments unknown to her, as if a door had opened in her mind.

“I knew everything from my mother who worked here at the time, but now, come Miss Kate, it’s time to go. Miss Kate…? Are you feeling well?” Al said to Kate, who seemed like she was suddenly waking up from a daydream.

“Huh? What? Yes, of course…I’m fine, Al, thank you. You’re right, let’s go now,” Kate said as she slipped through the wall.

For weeks, Kate stayed at work after hours, and with Al’s help, she was able to access Mr. Morris’ laboratory.

Mr. Morris’s notes were very useful to Kate, and by combining them with her talent and creativity, one evening she finally obtained what seemed to be the much desired anti-aging serum.

“Al…Al! Come look!” Kate said, showing him a syringe with transparent liquid.

“Miss Kate, don’t tell me that… “Al said, looking at the syringe and Kate at the same time.

“Yes…I think it’s definitely ready. But I can only be sure in this way,” Kate said, injecting the product into her left hand.

“No! Miss Kate, what are you doing?!” Al said, trying to stop Kate.

Al sat on the ground with a resigned air; he surely feared seeing Kate end up like Amanda Morris.

For a few minutes that seemed endless, a grave silence reigned over that room that had emerged from the past, then Kate stood up and said: “Al, look at my hand…the scar I had since I was a little girl, now it’s gone!”

Al got closer to Kate, looking at her hand, and after a few seconds, he said: “Surprising…it’s true! It has disappeared; the skin is smooth and soft.”

“All we have to do is recommend people take the product in small doses,” Kate said.

“And what will you recommend to Miss Brockenwood when she learns about your discovery, Miss Kate? ” Al said while looking at Kate, smiling cleverly.

For a moment, Kate was open-mouthed…of course, she couldn’t hide her discovery from Miss Brockenwood, but before she dit it, she was determined to protect her rights. She did not want to repeat what had happened to her last creation.

Two days later, Kate and other colleagues were waiting for Miss Brockenwood to come in order to see the progress of her collaborators.

The tension could be cut with a knife…one by one, Kate’s colleagues fell victim to the ruthless judgments of Miss Brockenwood, and those who were called incompetent donkeys…well, they were the luckiest.

Yes, the lady often flew off the handle! Which then ended up in the head of the poor unfortunate in turn, metaphorically speaking, of course.

Kate was looking at her seriously; she had to stay calm while Miss Brockenwood was looking curiously at the bottle on the workbench.

She was looking at the serum and at Kate, who was expecting at any moment to be asked for explanations about her product, but instead…nothing.

“Kate, my dear Kate…listen. Listen to me, all my dear ones! I want to share with you all this wonderful news. A famous fashion magazine whose name I won’t say, but which you all certainly know, has defined me as an icon of feminine beauty. I will have to pose for a photo shoot to highlight all my beautiful figure, which will then be immortalized in Madame Tusseaud’s wax museum with other celebrities. So, woe to them if they don’t make me a beautiful statue!” said Miss Brockenwood, radiant with joy.

Of course, Miss Brockenwood was overwhelmed by the compliments of those present, except for Kate, who had been immersed in her thoughts.

Miss Brockenwood immediately noticed Kate’s attitude, and thinking that it was due to the contrast  they had had the last time, showing an hypocritical smile, she said: “My dear, do not be sad; not everyone can see their beauty immortalized in wax. You are not ugly at all, but you’re not on my level. That’s exactly why it is my duty to lend my wonderful features to art. So all the others who haven’t been lucky like me can contemplate, full of admiration and hope, a dream for them…unreachable.”

“I think from now on, they’ll get very close,” said Kate, smiling.

“What…what do you mean?” Miss Brockenwood asked with an air of surprise.

“Here, look at my right hand. Do you remember the scar you noticed?” Kate asked.

Miss Brokenwood looked at Kate’s hand in silence…she was amazed; that horrible sign had disappeared, leaving the skin smooth and soft.

“But…that’s impossible, not even cosmetic surgery could have made it disappear completely,” said Miss Brockenwood.

“It’s all thanks to my discovery,” Kate said, pointing to the vial that was above her desk.

Miss Brockenwood looked at Kate, smiling, and said, “Kate, my dearest Kate, you and I…we have to talk privately.”

In Miss Brockenwood’s office, Kate came up with something quite believable about how she had developed her creation. It didn’t matter…what Miss Brockenwood was interested in were the effects of the serum and how long it would last; but it was mostly secrecy that mattered to her.

If Kate had spoken of the serum with someone outside Brockenwood Cosmetics, it would have been a disaster. Therefore, Miss Brockenwood had to buy Kate’s silence at all costs, and it was for this reason that the following evening she invited her to stay out of time.

Kate accepted, and after ten o’clock stayed in the laboratory waiting for the arrival of her “boss,” who arrived greeting Kate with a smile that shone like a fake coin, who betrayed an increasing anxiety to know and especially to see, then turned to Kate saying: “All right, try it on the other hand too; if it works again, I’ll make you rich!”

Kate obeyed, and shortly afterwards her other hand also returned to having smooth and soft skin.

Miss Brockenwood was shocked…her face expressed wonder and greed at the same time, so she ordered Kate to inject the serum into her right hand, then she looked at her in silence waiting for the results, and after a few minutes, an increasingly enthusiastic Miss Brockenwood admired her. rejuvenated hand.

“Finally…it’s mine! Only mine! No one else will have to know this wonder! This is the only agreement between you and me!” Miss Brockenwood said with a hallucinatory gaze.

Kate didn’t say anything…it looked like she was waiting for something.

Miss Brockenwood wanted confirmation that the serum worked for the whole body and asked Kate if there was a guinea pig available in the lab to try the full dose.

“Madam, the whole dose could be lethal, this product is still at the experimental stage; when I will be totally sure of its effectiveness and that there will be no harmful side effects, then within a week the whole body can be treated.”

“What?! A week?! Listen to me, little girl…I have a photo shoot in days, so don’t get smart with me or I swear you’ll never work in the cosmetics industry again! You’ll find all the doors closed, you can believe it,” said Miss Brockenwood.

“The only alternative is to try it on me…” Kate said.

“Yes, now I understand…nice try, my dear, but I’m smarter than you. No, the serum has nothing dangerous about it, it’s that you want it all for yourself! But I will be the only one to use it!” cried Miss Brockenwood.

She had become a fury…her face had lost its usual expression of eternal happiness, giving way to the features of a madness that Miss Brockenwood had to worry about concealing even in the past.

Miss Brokenwood only calmed down upon seeing Kate taking the syringe, so she handed her right arm, and while the girl was injecting the serum she said to her: “You did the right thing, after all, it was the only one possible.”

“Yes, it’s what you told me long time ago, too,” replied Kate.

“Tell me, what is this…you? Since when have I authorized you to give it to me?” asked Miss Brockenwood, irritated.

“Once…a long time ago we were very close; don’t you remember, Valerie?” Kate said.

“What are you talking about? You must be crazy!” Miss Brockenwood replied.

Kate looked at her and calmly said: “You just don’t recognize me, do you? You don’t remember your dear friend…Amanda? The one you murdered 40 years ago? Of course…my name is Kate now, but I am Amanda Morris. Unbelievable, isn’t it? My spirit possessed Kate once she saw me for the first time, but after all this is over, I can finally leave in peace. We were friends, but you were always jealous of everything, and when my father created the anti-aging serum, you convinced me to try it.  Just a little bit, you told me, but you injected me with the full dose and in 20 seconds my heart stopped beating. Why? Why did you kill me? I trusted you to say that we were friends,” Kate said.

“I don’t know where and by whom you heard this ridiculous story, but it won’t do you any good…or rather, it will only be useful to you to end up unemployed forever! Better…you were too smart, little Kate!” Miss Brockenwood said, screaming at Kate trying to hit her.

But at that moment, her run stopped suddenly, she remained with her arm up and the hand open, while her face stiffened in an expression of wonder and terror increased also by the memories and the awareness that within a few seconds she would die; and just in that short period of time she recognized the face of Amanda Morris who looked at her with a smile of satisfaction, after which the heart of Valerie Brockenwood stopped forever.

Kate was about to faint, but she felt supported by two strong arms that gently helped her to sit down.

“Al…but, but where did you come from? What happened?” Kate asked while Al offered her a glass of water.”

It’s a long story, Miss Kate…a story about friendship and jealousy between two young friends, and it started many years ago. Now I’ll try to tell you briefly,” said Al, smiling.

“Of course, since I’ve been involved,” Kate replied

“Amanda Morris and Valerie Brockenwood were friends, but with the passing of time, Valerie became jealous of Amanda’s beauty, and when Amanda’s father discovered the anti-aging serum, Valerie persuaded her to try it. So one day, she purposely injected a full dose of the serum to Amanda  killing her.”

“So Valerie knew the right dosage…” Kate said.

“Of course, Mr. Morris had told them everything, including the side effects. That’s why when his daughter died, he couldn’t forgive himself. He built that sarcophagus in the laboratory hoping to find an antidote and bring his daughter back to life, but that hope soon vanished and Mr. Morris decided to have the laboratory walled up so that Amanda’s rest would never be disturbed, then…he put the building up for sale,” said Al.

“Which was promptly bought by Valerie’s family. She must have been at the height of happiness, I imagine…but you, Al, how did you hear this story?” Kate asked.

“My mother found a job here thanks to Mr. Morris, and I was hired as a warehouseman. We owed a lot to Mr. Morris, so we decided to stay here and keep the secret while waiting for the right person,” replied Al.

“Right for what?” Kate asked.

“To make sure that Miss Amanda was avenged and her spirit could rest in peace, and to…to get rid of that witch of Miss Valerie, but…we needed the right person,” said Al, looking at Kate.

Kate didn’t answer; she just smiled looking at Al, then they both looked at Valerie Brockenwood who, stiffened in a surreal macabre pose, seemed to say hello them.

“Well, at least now she will no longer have to worry about her resemblance to the statue, she is stiff  and similar enough,” said Al, lighting up a cigar.

“Yes, I’m sure she’ s perfect…her beauty will be admired forever in a wax museum.” Kate said, looking at Al with complicity.

“Well, in one way or another, it’s what she’s always wanted…an eternal beauty!” replied Al.